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What to do about controlling / over-protective parents?

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Other advice I am a first year college student who is about to complete my second semester at a top university. I am double majoring in biochemistry and genetics, I'm pre-med, I volunteer a substantial amount, and by all accounts I'm a responsible adult who knows exactly what I want out of life. Growing up, my parents were absolutely wonderful; they helped me start my own business, taught me how to invest my money, and they taught me how to be a safe and mature adult. I know where I'm going and will never do anything to jeopardize that.

However, my parents are extremely paranoid/over protective and as a child I was never allowed to attend sleepovers, parties, concerts, or even go on trips without a chaperone. My mom wouldn't even let me go to a baseball game with my 27 year old sister because "I could get abducted or a terrorist could shoot up the stadium." I am almost 19 and I have never even had a relationship before, because my parents are so intrusive and they have created this feeling that I shouldn't even date until I'm 30. When I first got to college I struggled terribly because I had none of the same experiences as other people my age, not to mention trying to have an actual relationship.

My hope was that after I got to college my parents would loosen the reins and understand that I'm an adult and can now make my own decisions. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened. They insist on tracking my phone, my mom gets extremely upset when I don't want her looking through my pictures and texts, and when I try to let them know where I'm going in the attempt to be transparent, they tell me it's not safe and I can't go. For example, a very good (gay) guy friend of mine drove up over spring to my hometown and wanted to go to the Dallas Arboretum with me. My parents just about had a heart attack when I told them my plans and they refused to let me go.

I love my parents to death, but this is absolutely out of hand and I have given them zero reasons to be this concerned. I want to have a social life, I want to make mistakes and grow as a person, and I want to have the freedom to live my own life without the constant commentary on how "I'm not doing it right." Every time I try to explain this to them, they tell me they are "older and wiser," and thus know more than me so I should just listen and play the dutiful daughter. When I actually do something that goes against their ideals, they leverage everything they have given me over my head so that I'm forced to toe the line. My parents have absolutely no qualms about taking everything I love in this world away from me, including my education. I have no idea how to make them understand that I NEED to be a normal kid and have the college experience without them taking everything away from me as a consequence of my "insubordinance."

I guess my question would be, I how would you approach this situation? I refuse to keep living like a hermit, but I know the consequences will be severe if I openly disobey them, as they are paying for my education.

What to do about controlling / over-protective parents?

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Dear Lucy2020,
Thanks for writing in! You sound like you have some very lofty life goals and have had some very good opportunities already provided by your parents. The sky is the limit as far as using your talents and abilities in your future employment.

I agree with you that as we get older we need opportunities to explore and have more freedom to grow in our decision making as young adults. You have been gifted with caring, nurturing, supportive and very protective parents who love you and want the best for you. Sometimes it can be difficult for parents to let go of the reins or allow more freedom because of the fears they have for their children. Yet, we learn also from our mistakes as you noted correctly and we need to be independent, well rounded adults, who can make decisions and be accountable.

After reading your post I have a few questions for you before I can offer advice so that I can be sure to understand your upbringing and where your parents are coming from in their relationship with you. Can you tell me a little bit more about the background of your parents? Where did they grow up and how were they raised? Have they had a bad experience? What in your opinion is promoting this overly cautious attitude toward you, their daughter? Are you an only child? Daughter?

I would honestly recommend finding another older adult in whom your parents have respect and confidence in to come be a mediator in your situation. This could be a professor, Pastor/Church Leader, or long-time trusted friend. I think it would help you to get another respected elder to vouch for how much you need to experience life and grow, even by making and learning from mistakes. If the mediation happens and was in any way effective, agreeable boundaries could be set up that would ease your parents’ worries while also allowing you room for growth experiences.

If you can, please write back so we can continue our conversation and I hope this is helpful!


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